|Art for the liturgy
|Rites and melodies
|Plan your visit |
The four horses stood on the loggia of St. Mark's basilica until 1977. After meticulous restoration, they were then moved to the museum in 1982 for reasons of conservation and replaced by reproductions.
The group is the only example of a four in hand to have come down to us from ancient statuary in the round. It was made by lost-wax casting using the so-called indirect method, in an alloy with a very high percentage of copper (between 96.67 and 98.35%), a requirement for the procedure of mercury gilding. The scratches on the surface were made intentionally to reduce the reflection of light.
Dating of the quadriga is uncertain. Some scholars now suggest it dates from between the second half of the second century and the early third century AD in the Roman imperial period; it was previously dated to periods ranging from the fourth century BC to the fourth century AD. Analysis with carbon 14 dates it to the beginning of the second century BC.
It has been conjectured that the horses came from the hippodrome in Constantinople, sent as war booty during the fourth crusade (1204) by Doge Enrico Dandolo to Venice, where they were kept in the Arsenale for more than fifty years. It was probably only after the fall of the Latin empire (1261) that they were placed on the basilica, having considerable semantic value in both a religious and political sense: the legacy and symbol of continuity of the imperial power of Byzantium; image of the Quadriga Domini and allegory of the spreading of the divine Word through the work of the four evangelists
St. Mark's horses
copper alloy lost-wax casting